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The Best Artists You've Never Heard of

Karen Kalmek, founder of Green Home Chicago Design Center, refers to Sandra and Wence Martinez as “the best artists you’ve never heard of.” Chicago is about to meet them. The vibrant, graphic and pattern-driven tapestries and works on paper of Martinez Studio will debut at Green Home Chicago Design Center on September 5, 2014 from 5-9 p.m. Wence and Sandra Martinez are an artistic husband and wife duo who, for 25 years, have created contemporary textiles through a traditional flat-weave process based on Wence’s geometric patterns and Sandra’s primitive and organic works on paper. They work side by side at their studio and gallery in Door County, Wisconsin, and travel to Oaxaca, Mexico in winter to source hand-spun wool and dye it using local botanicals.

The Martinez duo made their second consecutive Smithsonian Craft Show appearance in 2014 to great acclaim and also impressed collectors and designers at the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York and the American Craft Council’s flagship show in Baltimore.  Their work is currently on display at the "Black and White and a Bit of Color," show at Kohler ARTspace. “We are thrilled to represent Wence and Sandra,” says Karen Kalmek, founder of Green Home Chicago Design Center. “Their aesthetic and their hand-made works are exceptional. We have a very specific vision for our showroom, and Wence and Sandra's work is a perfect fit."

A master weaver and native of Oaxaca, Wence learned the craft of weaving from his grandfather and father, and brings more than 40 years of experience to his work. Sandra has been focused on her primitive drawing style for 30 years, and when the couple met over a commission fusing Sandra’s drawing with Wence’s weaving, they also fused their lives and their creative passions. The couple was featured in the 2014 PBS series Wisconsin Life that highlighted their shared life and artistic pursuits in a segment titled “Woven Together.”

Recently, a collector gifted a Martinez piece to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago for their permanent collection. The curator of the museum’s permanent collection accepted the promised gift, which will be presented at a later date. Sandra and Wence are grateful to be accepted by this prominent institution of Mexican art and culture. “We feel honored that the collectors want to preserve the piece and make it available to the public,” says Sandra. “That the Museum would accept it is a major highlight of our careers to date. Between the generosity of the collectors and the Museum, we are overwhelmed with gratitude.”

The refined, rich textiles of the Martinez’ are suitable for floor or wall, and stand the test of time, working in harmony with various styles of décor. Bespoke services are available. They will show at Green Home Chicago Design Center through October, with select works remaining through the winter. The show will also include a raffle, with prizes including one of Wence and Sandra's works, as well as a piece of furniture donated by Green Home Chicago Design Center. Proceeds will benefit youth arts programs at the National Museum of Mexican Art.